Bath beat Sale in thriller to book Premiership final date with Northampton

Celebration: Bath have not played in the Premiership final since 2015 (Getty Images)
Celebration: Bath have not played in the Premiership final since 2015 (Getty Images)

Bath reached their first Gallagher Premiership final for nine years after beating Sale 31-23 in a thrilling encounter at the Recreation Ground.

Johann van Graan's team will face Northampton at Twickenham next Saturday in what has the potential to be a classic contest.

Sale, eighth in the table two months ago, gave it everything and wiped out an 18-5 deficit before two second-half Finn Russell penalties and a late Niall Annett try saw Bath home.

Flanker Ted Hill and prop Beno Obano also scored for Bath, with fly-half Finn Russell kicking 16 points from four penalties and two conversions.

Sale also scored three tries - skipper Ben Curry, hooker Tommy Taylor and wing Tom O'Flaherty all crossed - with George Ford adding two penalties and a conversion.

But there was no fairy-tale return to action for Sale and England flanker Tom Curry, who featured for 33 minutes off the bench on his first appearance since the World Cup after undergoing major hip surgery.

Bath took a fourth-minute lead after wing Joe Cokanasiga was obstructed chasing a Ben Spencer kick, with Russell making no mistake from 25 metres out.

It was a confident start by the home side, and they extended their advantage just eight minutes later following a move started and finished by former Worcester forward Hill.

His initial surge into Sale territory did enough damage for Russell to then make a half-break before Spencer's chip into space was gathered by Hill for a superbly worked try.

Sale needed something from the opening quarter, and they delivered from a first meaningful visit to Bath's 22 when Curry touched down after a powerful lineout drive.

Bath had been dominant until that point, but they quickly returned to the front-foot when wing Will Muir's lengthy touchfinder gave them an imposing attacking platform.

And the Bath forwards did not disappoint, patiently going though phase-play before Obano claimed a try that Russell converted, making it 15-6.

Russell continued to move through his repertoire, booting a penalty from the halfway line, yet Sale struck again from a close-range lineout, with Taylor the latest beneficiary.

Ford converted from the touchline, and when he kicked a penalty shortly afterwards Sale were firmly back in contention, trailing by just three points at half-time.

A 40-metre penalty by Ford levelled things up early in the second period, and Tom Curry entered the fray immediately afterwards.

Russell' third successful penalty put Bath ahead again, yet Sale hit back immediately after an attack sparked by wing Tom Roebuck ended with O'Flaherty gathering Joe Carpenter's kick and crossing wide out.

Sale were ahead for the first time, but another Russell edged Bath one pint in front with 14 minutes left as the tension began to crank up.

Russell drifted a penalty chance narrowly wide eight minutes from time, but Bath had territorial control as they chased one more score to kill the game off.

And it duly arrived after a driven lineout proved too much for Sale's defence, with Annett touching down and Russell converting, setting up a Twickenham showdown with Saints.